Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 4 – page 4

How are you doing, doldrums-wise? Do you feel like you’ve lost your business mojo and aren’t sure about ideas for getting your mojo back?

If that describes where you are right now, here is a bit of good news. Based on multiple conversations we’ve had with business people in their 30s to 50s, you are not alone.

The common refrain: I’m working my butt off, I’m continually crazy-busy, but never feel as if I’m doing great work. I’m getting by, that’s all; and I’m wondering what the point is.

Not surprisingly, the concerns we hear are decade-specific:

  • Thirty-somethings are wondering what the work, the stress, and the anxiety are about — and whether any of it is worthwhile.
  • Those in their forties are looking at automation’s threat. They are trying to determine how long it is before AI and robots replace them and stay a few steps ahead.
  • The nearly universal concern for the fifty-year-old group? Whether they have a hope of staying relevant through the rest of their careers as everything constantly changes.

Quibble with the specifics if you must. But consider for a moment the people you know in the workforce. Don’t these sentiments hold up?

Ideas for Getting Your Mojo Back by Decade

getting your mojo back and being a star in your career

It seems everywhere that the pace is faster, expectations are always rising, and it’s challenging to deliver and celebrate stellar work. Too often, it can seem as if you’ve become so focused on shipping that raising the bar gets shuffled to the bottom of the pile—and sometimes, it’s more about swerving to avoid crashing into the bar.

What can you do?

For starters, here is our been-there-done-it-for-years advice by decade for getting your mojo back.

30-Somethings: Focusing on What Matters to You

One way to bring meaning to your work? Look inward for the meaning and direction that don’t seem to exist in the swirl of work craziness around you. When you anchor your professional course to what matters in your life, you can better make deliberate career decisions that stay true to your priorities.

It may sound like a ridiculous prospect. But we have a lot of personal data to back it up, and two things are crucial for making the strategy work:

  1. Knowing what’s most important for you to accomplish to excite and motivate you
  2. Actively creating the flexibility and diversity to allow yourself control over your career’s through-line

When it comes to identifying what’s personally important, mine questions such as these for potential answers:

  • What motivates you every day?
  • Where do you find the greatest joy, fulfillment, and contentment?
  • What long-lasting, significant things do you want to accomplish?

Relative to maximizing your flexibility and diversity, think through:

  • What are the smartest / most fruitful intersections of what’s important to me, my skill set, and market needs? (Venn diagrams are useful here.)
  • What skills might I need to develop for the next thing I’ll do after this job?
  • How can I manage my finances to give me the strongest possibilities to leave a regular paycheck behind temporarily if a job pushes me away from what matters for me?

Combining a clear view of where you want to head with the agility to quickly make big changes prepares you to make career moves that maximize personal fulfillment and minimize the anxiety of figuring out where your next paycheck will come from.

40-Somethings: Staying Ahead of the Neighbors (aka Bill “Robot” Jones)

When the dinosaurs walked the earth (okay, really when the 1800s turned into the 1900s), a major league baseball player named Willie Keeler uttered his memorable success formula, “Keep your eye on the ball and hit ‘em where they ain’t.”

While Keeler didn’t have a clue about AI, his advice is brilliant when devising a personal strategy to stay ahead of robotics and automation. Futurist Bernard Marr, in a Forbes online article, shares a two-part future career strategy:

  1. Look ahead to where automation is headed
  2. Develop (soft) skills in the areas where robots and AI will struggle to perform for the foreseeable future.

One quick test Marr offers to identify where humans will continue to retain an edge over automation (according to Stanford’s Andrew Ng): mental tasks that take the average human more than one second to complete.

If your job requires mental complexity beyond simple THIS-input-leads-to-THAT-output functions, you’re on stronger footing.

When it comes to areas where bots will struggle, Marr suggests developing any of these skills:

  • Empathetic personal communication
  • Critical and strategic thinking
  • Vision, creativity, and imagination
  • Technology management and maintenance
  • Personal physical skills

Want to go deeper in rethinking what you can do? Intriguingly, the skills Marr outlines are very close to the list of strategies in Idea Magnets – 7 Strategies for Attracting and Cultivating Creative Business Leaders. Maybe TODAY is the day to finally get your copy on Amazon and jump start retooling your career.

50-Somethings: Clarify What You Are Giving Up

In your fourth or fifth career decade, you were expecting (we know) a senior-level job that would let you coast to retirement. If you have that, WHOA! Good for you!

But if you realize that the careers you studied in school no longer exist, you have a big decision to make: Are you going to go out loudly or quietly? (Please note: by “loudly,” we don’t mean “complaining ceaselessly about how hard you work at your age and how everything needs to stop changing because it’s inconvenient.”)

getting your mojo back doesn't involve blah-blah-blahing about things changing

Going out loudly means actively and enthusiastically embracing the learning you need to stay relevant for the next ten to twenty years. And that simply will not be one-and-done learning; it will involve perpetual updating and adaptation.

How will you free up the time and mental space for that? Answer two questions:

  • Ask people in the workplace (and maybe at home) who will be brutally honest: What behaviors and practices do you see me doing that don’t really contribute highly meaningful value any longer?
  • Ask yourself: What things have I said for years that I want to do, but haven’t done, and now know that I’m never going to ever do?

Take your answers and give up on those things. This will create room to throw yourself into the new learning and development you must do to stay relevant into your sixties and seventies.

Take Action

Yes, last year moved by frantically fast. This year will be exactly the same. Identify your most significant career anxiety source. Craft a simple strategy to re-energize and get closer to back on top ASAP.  – Mike Brown

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Were you bombarded with emails in the last week all about coming up with your special focus word, personal exploration, or individual success plan for the new year?

EVERYONE seemed to be on the same program based on our anxiety about hitting the ground running with the simplest way to focus our attention throughout the year. One email even offered an automated word-of-the-year generator, just in case you are unable to imagine a word to shape the next 12 months.

creative thinking questions can target your focus areas for the year

The reason I don’t immediately unsubscribe from these emails? When it comes to focus and preparation exercises, it’s a numbers game. You look at a lot of them, a couple resonate, you follow up on maybe one or two, and you hope that something sticks from the reflection you do. The more of them you have hitting your inbox, the more likely you are to do SOMETHING beneficial, even if it’s basic.

How about Creative Thinking Questions?

What are we suggesting for looking ahead this week to map your professional horizons for the year?

Planning we did in December for Idea Magnets helped identify what I thought might be valuable. Since it’s tough for planners to do their own planning, I turned it over to Tara Baukus Mello to pick the approach we used to plan.

To prepare for the in-person planning, Tara forwarded creative thinking questions that looked out from today to more than a decade into the future. It was twenty pages of questions. While the document was daunting, working with a fresh set of questions forced me to think about completely new opportunities and issues. And that’s always the goal with strong set of creative thinking questions: to push you to explore important (often overly-familiar) areas more deeply and with fresh thinking.

8 Creative Thinking Questions to Focus Your Year

Tara’s exercise prompted me to adapt the eight questions below from our free eBook, 49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Amazing Ideas. This subset provides a helpful way to focus in particularly on what’s important for the year ahead.

Spend a few minutes with the questions and record your initial thoughts. Come back to them early next week to see if you’d expand or modify your answers.

  1. If I’m always working with the same people, what can I do each day to increase the diversity of individuals I interact with to stimulate new thinking?
  2. What is something that everyone in our industry has known for years would provide great value for customers that nobody has ever done that we can do in 2019?
  3. What are the boldest moves I can imagine challenging ourselves with in 2019? (Are they bold ENOUGH? Just checking.)
  4. What can we do to reduce by 1/3 or 1/2 the list of projects and activities that seem important but are genuinely blocking greater future success?
  5. What’s stopping us from asking for favors and help from people that we have no business trying to talk to?
  6. How can I better address a big problem by undoing the problem instead of putting another fix on a previous fix?
  7. What scary and risky things did we say Yes to in 2018? Which ones do we need to say Yes to in 2019?
  8. If I wrote the year-end recap for 2019 right now, what dramatic expectations would it point to that we need to address this year?

What’s Next?

After you’ve completed a couple of passes through the questions, then what?

That depends on what will work best for you to stay on top of goals and strategies.

I recommend placing the list in as many places (physically, electronically, and/or mentally) as necessary so that you regularly and frequently see your answers for a quick read. Doing this helps to refresh your memory without trying to be overly beholden to early January thinking that may very naturally need to change over the course of 2019. Yet even if it does, you’ll have a sense of the direction you started with at the start of the year!

If you want the OTHER 41 questions, grab your free copy of 49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Amazing Ideas for questions you can use and return to throughout the year. – Mike Brown

FREE Download - 49 Idea Magnet Questions for Attracting Amazing Ideas

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Confession: I love The Nutcracker. Since the very first production I saw, in 19-mumble-mumble, I’ve been under its spell, all incarnations included. (Even the weird film version (affiliate link), which boasted as its production designer none other than the great Maurice Sendak, author and illustrator of beloved kids’ lit like Where the Wild Things Are. affiliate link)

It occurred to me a couple of months ago that my four-year-old niece was probably now old enough to appreciate it. So I got us a pair of front-row tickets, and told her about the show: the dancing! The costumes! Sugarplum fairies! Mice having sword fights with toy soldiers! As I talked, her jaw dropped, her eyes got bigger and bigger, and I thought she would jump out of her skin with excitement. She was so on board with it. Anytime it came up in conversation, she jumped up and down a little. She couldn’t wait.

Photo by oldskool photography on Unsplash

Then, the night before the big event, she sought out my mom, worriedly.

“Grandma, I just don’t think I can go,” she said.

Shocked, my mom asked her why.

“Well…I don’t know very much at all! I only know this and this,” she said, demonstrating the two ballet moves she’s probably learned from watching Peppa Pig, or some such. So dawned the realization that my niece thought she would have to perform the ballet. She was, of course, immediately reassured that no, she wouldn’t be expected to perform–she needed only to sit and enjoy the show.

What pressure! How she must have sweated over it in the weeks leading up to that day!

And it was entirely self-imposed.

How many times has each of us done that — taken on overwhelming tasks because we think it’s expected of us? How often do we assume that agreeing to a pleasurable thing also means agreeing to something arduously stressful? And perhaps worst of all, how often do we say no to a fantastic opportunity because we assume that it will involve something arduously stressful?

The answer, of course, is to clarify. Speak up. Ask for details. Check in with yourself. We get so busy, particularly toward the end of the year, that it’s easy to assume. (And I think we all know what happens when we assume. If you don’t, feel free to email me and I can fill you in.)

Self-imposed expectations are a tough nut to crack. Give yourself and others the gift of clear and managed expectations, so you can sit back and enjoy the show. – Emma Alvarez Gibson

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Emma here. You may remember me as the woman who so disliked conferences that Mike felt compelled to write a blog post for her. And that’s okay if you do — but you should know that I no longer dislike them. Along with all 23 of those helpful tips for introverts in that post, what helped was attending the right conferences. Who knew? The last one I went to was so good I was already looking forward to the following year. (I’m enthusiastic by nature, but that was a new experience.)

So yes, I’ve come around. In fact, I’ve already got a conference lined up for the first part of January, and it’s one that sounds so good I want to tell people about it ahead of time.


First of all, it’s a creativity and innovation conference, and as you know that’s kind of our jam here at Brainzooming. Secondly, the sessions and speakers are impressive (hello, Disney / NASA JPL / Game of Thrones / Westworld / Ewan McGregor and many others). Third, it’s for professionals across industries and from around the world. Fourth: it’s in Ojai, CA, which is a beautiful, quirky, and deeply peaceful place to stay. Fifth, I love this aspect, from the website: This event provides a point in time for attendees to disconnect from a heavily tech-saturated world, disrupt routine habits and patterns of thought and discover new insights to catalyze greater creativity and innovation in their professional and personal lives.

Obviously, with all of that going for it, it’s called EPIC, and I would love to see you there. It’s happening January 10-12, with an optional day trip on the 13th to the Channel Islands.
You’ll want to take advantage of the Brainzooming Community discount rate of $749 — that’s a $500 discount, and includes meals except Friday night dinner. To grab that rate, go to and use promo code EPICBRAINZOOMING19.

For the full scoop, go to

If you decide to go, drop me a line! I’d love to meet up with you.  – Emma Alvarez Gibson

Download Your FREE eBook! Disrupting Thinking - 13 Exercises to Imagine Disrupting Your Brand


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I surprised a CMO the other day, telling her something she was NOT expecting to read in an introductory email. Here’s the story.

A long-time friend was making an introduction between one of her current clients and me. The focus was her firm needing to develop its brand strategy. Following up the initial email exchange, I shared this:

“If you are looking to accelerate branding development, we use a streamlined process that is highly collaborative. This lets you, as the brand owner, actively participate in shaping the innovative, on-target strategy and implementation plan. Our approach isn’t tailored for every company. Should you want to explore how our branding development approach might work, we’d welcome a call to explore possibilities, if you see that as a logical next step.”

She emailed back within minutes, wanting to clarify if I REALLY meant to write that our approach ISN’T for every company. If that were the case, she said she was very intrigued.

Brainzooming Isn’t for Everyone

I responded to her question:

“Our approach to fun strategic planning ISN’T tailored for every organization. Let me explain.

“I created what became Brainzooming while I was on the client side. We wanted to be highly-engaged with our outside strategy partners. They wanted to maintain a black box approach, however, sucking all the information from us, then retreating by themselves to dream up “creative” branding ideas. We wasted significant time briefing agencies on our strategy only to find our knowledge about customers and markets didn’t translate to the branding work they presented. Then, we’d have to redo what they’d done.

“Because I grew up on the client side, we have tremendous respect and appreciation for the insights that exist within an organization. That’s why our approach is all about collaborating with a client’s management group, broader team, and even outside audiences to build on their understanding. We bring our experience, tools, and time-efficient process to the table. Combined with the brand’s initial insights, it’s a potent combination for on-target strategy.

For organizations that valuable broad collaboration, we deliver fantastic results. For management teams that simply want an outside partner to go off and come up with all the ideas and pitch them, we aren’t a good fit.”

A Fun strategic planning process isn't for everyone.

Why am I sharing this?

I don’t typically write much about what we do for clients because I realize that’s not why you read Brainzooming articles.

Yet, many executives have been beating their heads against the wall trying to more actively engage their employees and customers to shape strategy. They can’t find partners who get that vision and want to collaborate to make it happen. We know that, because that initially describes almost EVERY Brainzooming client.

This probably doesn’t sound like your exact situation.

If it does describe your frustration with being unable to develop strategy in a new way, then you owe it to yourself to contact us for a chat – sooner than later.

Helping executives engage their most important audiences in developing better, more on-target, and highly actionable strategies is at the very heart of what we do very well. We can end your frustrations. Plus, it will be fun for you – and your team. I guarantee that! 

You can email me at, call me at 816-509-5320, or reply here. Let’s start making your vision come to life – now!


fun-ideas-strategic-planning11 Ideas to Create a Fun Strategic Planning Process!

Yes, your strategic planning process can be fun . . . if you know the right ways to liven it up while still developing solid strategies! If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, download our FREE eBook, “11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.”

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning

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Sometimes the people who are major influencers in your life don’t want a lot of attention brought to that fact.

My mother, Phyllis Brown, is one of those people. She would prefer to go unnoticed. Being the center of attention is her least-favorite place. That’s why I don’t write about her much.

Today, though, it’s time to recognize her turning 85 and share some of her motherly lessons.

motherly lessons

9 Motherly Lessons for Mom’s Birthday

For the first eighteen years of my life, my mother shaped my perspectives, attitudes, and life view very directly. As a stay-at-home mom, we spent many, many hours together. To celebrate her birthday, I want to share nine motherly lessons I learned from my mom (one for every decade) that remain with me today:

1. Use questions to discover things about people.

Showing genuine interest and giving someone room to talk is an outstanding way to get to understand them better.

2. Listen openly.

This goes along with the first, although that’s not always the case with people. So many people over the years sat at my parents’ kitchen table as they shared their hopes and unburdened themselves of their challenges. Through it all, mom listened with an amazing lack of judgment.

3. Always maintain your inner circle.

Because mom has never been one to go out and meet lots of new people, keeping a tight group of confidants (typically, close relatives) is something she has always done.

4. Exhibit intense constancy and faithfulness toward people.

Whether knowing my dad for 80 years, being married for 63 years, or still checking in with high school classmates, mom doesn’t easily let people slip away. I try to do the same with people.

5. In any relationship, someone must provide the foundation.

Motherly Lessons

My dad was the one in the family with the big plans, speculative investment ideas, and go-up-and-talk-to-anyone attitude. With a big thinker like that, it helps to have someone who is ALWAYS going to be grounded. That was Mom.

6. As best you can, don’t over-celebrate the highs or wallow in the lows of life.

Always taking a reserved approach to anything that happens keeps you on the even keel.

7. Wear long sleeves and stay out of the sun.

For those of you who wonder why I wear a sport coat to Walmart, please refer to this lesson. Seriously.

8. You needn’t blatantly show your smarts.

My mom was at or near the top of her high school class (she won’t say which one), kills at Scrabble, and is sharp as anything. Nevertheless, you’re NEVER going to hear her say a word about any of that (Dad was always the one to report his own daily trouncing at Scrabble).

9. A competitive spirit is a tremendous way to motivate yourself.

And if a little competitiveness is good, an intense competitive streak is even better. (Thus, the Scrabble trouncing streak Dad endured.)

Happy Birthday, Mom, and I hope you have MANY, MANY MORE!!!

Mike Brown

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This has been a year of so much learning about the business and what it takes to be successful. Many of the things I’m learning seem as if I should have been learning them years ago.

Being so late to learn makes me think about missed opportunities. That is why thinking back over the new learning occurring this year (and even in the last few days) is top-of-mind for me right now.

9 Ways to Unlearn Faster than You Are Now

9 ways to unlearn faster than you are now

The drive to realize future opportunities more quickly prompted me to think about how I (or you) could unlearn faster to be able to learn new things more  rapidly. Here are nine ways to unlearn that occurred to me right away:

  1. Wait to be proven wrong.
  2. Surround yourself with one or more people who will joyously call B.S. on you.
  3. Strip away as many of your personal best practices as you can without imploding.
  4. Stop EVERYTHING (or at least some things) and do completely the opposite.
  5. Go off into a new environment where you absolutely MUST start over.
  6. Force fit practices from someone who views the world (and acts) completely differently than you.
  7. Turn over control to someone very different than you.
  8. Immerse yourself in EVERY experience that will challenge your thinking.
  9. Accept that everything you know is wrong.

These ideas vary in difficulty for me. I do some of these more (and more readily) than others. Based on how they’re ordered, if you can only manage number 1, you’re not going to unlearn without a lot of real world setbacks and days of reckoning along the way.

Where are you most comfortable within this list? Where are you spending YOUR time trying to unlearn? And, are you unlearning as quickly as you want to and need to do? – Mike Brown

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